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March 27, 2002

Other Social Issues

Question from Ojai, California, USA:

It would look as though your son can qualify. See American Red Cross Lifeguard Training.

Additional comments from Dr. Tessa Lebinger:

I’m not sure what a “certified” lifeguard is, but I’ve had several patients work as lifeguards at pools. They’ve passed the American Red Cross lifesaving course and taken CPR. I’ve never even been asked to fill out a medical form for them stating that their diabetes won’t be a problem. We do discuss, however, that they can’t let their blood sugars go low while on duty, that if they are going to take on this responsibility, they may have to err on keeping the blood sugar a little higher than normal. If someone is drowning, they can’t take an “extra minute or two” to eat extra food before they dive in to save them. I usually recommend that they try to take a break about once an hour if possible to test their blood sugar and eat frequently during their shift (not necessarily extra food, just spacing it out to avoid drops in their blood sugar) I also suggest that they go on their lifeguard “schedule” if possible at least one week before the real job starts so they can work out the match between their insulin and food and identify when they will be most prone to lows. They can then try to adjust their schedule to minimize the risk of lows while on duty and of course still minimize the highs.

Additional comments from David S. Holtzman, Esq.:

The American Red Cross has developed a program of instruction in the area of water safety that is generally used throughout the United States. Their Lifeguard Training Program does not establish any standards as to the health or fitness of those seeking certification. Rather, applicants are required to meet certain requirements relating to swimming ability and stamina. Successful completion of the LTP requires passage of a written examination and demonstration of water safety and first aid principles. However, municipalities employing lifeguards may have requirements for those seeking such employment. Best bet is to check with the local government/lifeguard service to see what the requirements for employment are.